Two decades after the passage of the landmark resolution on women, peace and security, USIP’s Kathleen Kuehnast points to the 86 countries that have taken action to address the unique experience of women in conflict as proof of progress, but says that getting women more involved in peace processes is “a long game … it is difficult to find room for women at any table.”

On Peace is a weekly podcast sponsored by USIP and Sirius XM POTUS Ch. 124. Each week, USIP experts tackle the latest foreign policy issues from around the world.


Tim Farley: Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution, UNSCR 1325, which was the first formal declaration made by the international community to recognize the disproportionate and inordinate impact of armed conflict on women and girls and the critical role women play in peacebuilding. That's from the statement. Let's make some more sense of it, understand it a little bit better, as we bring into the program Kathleen Kuehnast, who's director of gender policy and strategy at the United States Institute of Peace, tweeting @kathkuehnast. Kathleen, welcome back. Thanks for being on POTUS this morning. 

Kathleen Kuehnast: Hello, Tim, nice to be back with you and talk about this amazing resolution. 

Tim Farley: 20 years ago seems like forever; yet, 2000, if I say it that way, doesn't sound like a long, long time ago. But I get the sense we're in a very different world now. But are we? I guess that's part of the question on this anniversary: how do we compare then and now? 

Kathleen Kuehnast: Well, I think the most important thing to look at is that we have a long way to go to really recognize the impact that women have in peacebuilding processes, positive impact, but also to recognize that women and girls need different types of protection during violent conflict. So, just that is a landmark breakthrough, the recognition of women as a part of the picture of war. We used to only think of war and we would have John Wayne come into mind, you know, with his pith helmet. Now, we start to understand, especially through some of the great documentaries, people like Abby Disney, and others have done to really bring that face of women into understanding the complexity of human violent conflict.

But, really, the good news is that 86 countries now around the world, Tim, have what are called National Action Plans. So we know this is a global effort. This isn't some side project of the United Nations. The civil society community throughout the world has worked for decades to recognize a woman's rights. And of course, to make sure that women are a part of the key crafters of peace processes. It is the one resolution out of the U.N. that has been translated into more than 100 languages. So we know it's having impact. But we also know that changing the mindset of a society, often very male-dominated, patriarchal, it is difficult to find room for women at any table. 

Tim Farley: Kathleen, I was looking at to the notes from the release saying that a study of 156 peace agreements showed that when women are included in peace processes, agreements were35% more likely to last at least 15 years. Is there a way to tell, to understand, specifically, how women have that kind of an effect on peace processes? 

Kathleen Kuehnast: Absolutely. I mean, we could take several of them right off the top. One is the peacebuilding efforts down in the Philippines with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro agreement. That particular agreement was made up of 50% women and 25% of the signatories. What did they bring to it? They brought a lens of saying, you know, this isn't just giving up our guns, this is about creating a society where rights, reconciliation, education must be a part of the change. I think that's really, you see that also in the 1998 Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, where women were a key part of the language of building that reconciliation and really stating that women must be full and equal in the political participation of the reconciliation process and the government. Definitely, we're looking for some of those wins in Afghanistan and we'll be watching that carefully over the weeks and months ahead. 

Tim Farley: You know, you're not the first to make mention of the fact that the peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, obviously, with Afghanistan have been remarkably, women are remarkably absent in that. One believes perhaps it's the Taliban in the way that their patriarchal organization does not recognize the influence or the, I guess, viability of women at the table. But speak to that issue and also the question of whether or not it is a part of if that gap also exists anywhere else in the U.S., for example, in our policy? 

Kathleen Kuehnast: Well, actually, I'm going to pick up the policy first, and then we'll come back to your question about Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress, in 2017, passed the Women, Peace and Security Act, which calls for our government, their agencies, four of them, in particular, to really be a global leader in promoting women's participation, not only in peace processes, but in conflict prevention, and the management and resolution in terms of sustaining democratic institutions, especially in conflict affected and fragile states. It is the only country so far to enact such a law in response to the U.N.'s Resolution 1325. And we suspect that other countries will begin to say, yes, this absolutely has to be a part of our governance framework in terms of foreign policy.

In terms of the question about Afghanistan and the Taliban, indeed, this is a really complex and decades, you know, predicament, but just this morning in the Afghanistan Times, Nangarhar appointed its first female court judge. So you know, in spite of all of this happening with the Taliban, we do see breakthroughs. And that's, you know, we know this is a long game. This is not a short game, and whatever the decisions and the processes with the Taliban, there is no doubt that the mindset and the consciousness that women make a difference is especially accurate in the younger Afghans. And I think, you know, the story will continue, but the seed of gender equality is there and I have great confidence in the Afghan people. 

Tim Farley: Kathleen Kuehnast, I appreciate you being on the show today. Thanks so much for being on POTUS. 

Kathleen Kuehnast: Absolutely, always good to talk to you, Tim. 

Tim Farley: Kathleen Kuehnast, director of gender policy and strategy at the United States Institute of Peace, discussing the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, where we were, where we are, and where we're going. The Twitter handle is @kathkuehnast

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